Annan Proposes Sweeping U.N. Reforms
For decades, accusations of excessive bureaucracy, out-of-touch
diplomats and ineffectual global leadership have plagued the United
Nations. But in March 2005, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
presented a proposal of "vital and achievable" reforms he said
the world body must undertake in light of global interdependence
to ensure its future relevance.
a period of difficulty in international affairs, in the face of
both new threats and old ones in new guises, there is a yearning
in many quarters for a new consensus on which to base collective
action," Annan wrote in the report. "And a desire exists to make
the most far-reaching reforms in the history of the United Nations
so as to equip and resource it to help advance this 21st century
The reforms, many of which Annan hopes the U.N. General Assembly will approve at its Sept. 14-16, 2005 summit, are based on "Millennium Development Goals" aimed at improving the United Nations response to new global challenges.
Some U.N. reforms began in 1997 and were mostly aimed at changing the internal structure and culture of the United Nations. The latest round comes in light of declining confidence in the international body, the divisions that arose over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and allegations of U.N. financial impropriety and sexual misconduct by U.N. peacekeepers in the Congo.
Annan asserts that his latest proposal will help update the 60-year-old organization and improve its response to current challenges.
Here are some of the highlights of Annan's proposal:
* Security Council: Annan proposes expanding the U.N. Security Council from 15 to 24 permanent seats. While he said he would leave it up to governments to determine how the enlarged body is structured, he supports efforts by India, Brazil, Germany and Japan to ensure an agreement cannot be blocked by an individual nation that opposes their candidacies, reported the Washington Post. Action on this portion of the proposal has been postponed until December.
* Management reform: Driven in part by the oil-for-food scandal and what are perceived as management and administrative inefficiencies within the United Nations, Annan is pushing for more resources to be geared toward administrative oversight and a review of budget and human resources rules and policies. He called for a decision on such reform by spring 2006.
* Anti-terrorism: Annan is seeking an anti-terrorism convention that would define terrorism as any act that is "intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants" to intimidate a community, government or international organization, according to the Post. When considering the resolution's wording, member nations have been struggling with how to crack down on those inciting terrorism while trying to protect the elements of free speech.
* Human rights: Annan is looking to strengthen the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, but has said the Commission on Human Rights, which has recently included members from such countries as Sudan, Cuba and Libya with histories of rights violations, is losing credibility. Annan has therefore proposed creating a smaller Human Rights Council with members chosen by the General Assembly.
* Military action: In light of the wrangling among member nations in early 2003 over whether the United States should initiate war with Iraq, Annan said the Security Council should establish a set of rules on when situations require the use of force.
* Nonproliferation: Recognizing the tension within the nuclear regime over the fact that nuclear technology for civilian purposes can also be used to make weapons, Annan is pressing for expanding the verification authority of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, by adopting a model protocol. The model protocol lists four key changes that must be included in any nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty additional protocol, including expanding the information nations must provide the IAEA pertaining to nuclear fuel and fuel-cycle activities, and increasing the amount of facilities and kind of inspections IAEA may conduct.
* U.N. peacekeeper abuse: The secretary-general has called for a zero tolerance policy on U.N. peacekeepers involved in abuse and better oversight of U.N. contracts, reported the BBC.
* Aid and debt forgiveness: Annan has urged rich countries to increase financial aid and debt forgiveness to poor nations that govern responsibly. He also encouraged poor nations to fight corruption and seek private-sector investment.